Most employees are at-will employees. This means their employer can terminate their employment at any time for almost any reason.
But there are many exceptions to at-will employment in California law. An employee who loses his or her job for wrongful reasons has the ability to seek remedies under California wrongful termination law. If your employer fires you in violation of an implied contract or in violation of public policy, you may have the right to compensation.
California Wrongful Termination for Violation of Public Policy
California employees also have the right to be free from wrongful termination (or wrongful failure to promote or demotion):
- In violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act
- Due to failure to provide reasonable accommodation for disability
- As retaliation for a qui tam lawsuit
- In violation of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act’s whistleblower protections
- Because of the employees’ political speech or activities outside of work
California’s WARN Act in Mass Layoffs or Business Closures
Wrongful Termination Based on Discrimination
Discrimination involves job decisions – such as hiring, firing, and setting work conditions – that are conducted in a discriminatory manner. California employment discrimination law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on:
- Race, color or ethnicity
- National origin and ancestry
- Age (40 and over)
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity, gender expression
- Pregnancy (including childbirth, breastfeeding)
- Disability and medical condition, mental and physical
- Marital status
California employment discrimination law also prohibits employers from discriminating because of the employer’s perception that that the worker has a protected trait or because the worker has associated with or advocated for coworkers who have these protected traits.
Employers that commit or fail to address discrimination in the workplace may be held accountable by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).
California Wrongful Termination for Complaints of Workplace Harassment
The Federal Civil Rights Act and various California state laws, including the Fair Employment and Housing Act, help to protect against workplace harassment. Harassment is mistreatment based on a protected class to the point of creating a “hostile work environment.”
California and federal law prohibit sexual harassment at work, which may take the form of unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. The law also prohibits quid pro quo harassment, in which employees are offered rewards for sexual acts at work.